- by Zoë
This is the story of Jim
Fisk. He drops his medicine show at the beginning of the American Civil
War, to prosper at cotton smuggling, and play the stock market. Attacked by
the press for feeding on small investors, Fisk enters upon a financial
struggle with Cornelius Vanderbilt. He loses, and his odd career is cut
short by mob violence.
- by Donna Moore
Based on the true story of Jim Fisk, a showman and con
artist, the story starts in 1861 at the outbreak of the American Civil War. Jim and his
partner Nick Boyd (Cary Grant) smuggle cotton from the South to the cotton mills in the
North and make a small fortune doing so. Unfortunately, their general manager in the
north, Luke Hawkins, has unwisely invested the profits in Confederate bonds. They are left
with "two million dollars worth of nothing".
However, undeterred they head for New York. Jim is full of
schemes to make them rich and various shenanigans and financial finagling later, Jim goes
into business as a stockbroker and becomes more and more successful. Jim and Nick also
meet Josie, a struggling actress. Jim spots her first and lavishes money and jewels on
her, but she is in love with Nick and Nick with her. However, she agrees to marry Jim
because of all he has done for her.
Jim eventually becomes part owner of the Erie Railroad
company but buys an opera house to showcase Josie with the stockholders' funds. Needless to
say, the stockholders are not best pleased and berate Jim and Josie in public. Jim,
annoyed at this, decides to show them all that he is king and comes up with a scheme to
corner the market in gold. Nick acts against him to save Jim from himself.
Jim's actions start a panic and causes a crash in Wall
Street and financial ruin for thousands of 'little people'. Jim has grown selfish and
doesn't care about the misery he has brought people. Eventually Jim himself is ruined when
the government steps in, but not before a mob arrives and Jim is shot. He realizes that he
has been very wrong and he and Nick are reconciled. As he is dying he entrusts Josie to
The film is an entertaining romp, and provides an
interesting view of the New York Stock Exchange in the late 1900's. Some extremely comic
moments are supplied by Jack Oakie as Luke. Cary plays the charmer with his usual panache
and is a sight for sore eyes in his top hat and tails.
VARIETY Film Review - July 14, 1937
- by "Flin"
- submitted by Barry Martin
Here is the life of Jim Fisk, Wall Street operator of the 80's,
told in ragtime. It's absurd biography but good
entertainment despite its inanities, extravagances and
exaggerations. It is an elaborate, costly production,
designed exclusively for provoking mirth. In that respect it
is successful. Making no pretense for serious consideration
as a faithful and accurate reflection of life and manners in the
period it depicts, it rates as a piece of hokum aimed at the box
office. It will do business.
Stock manipulations engineered by
Fisk when he was one of the most daring and hated financiers in
the reckless post-Civil War era have become traditional.
Ruthless battles for corporation control during the fast
commercial expansion of the country which followed the building of
railroads into the west engaged the ingenuity of dominant bankers
and speculative groups. Fisk was a powerful figure in a
colorful setting. Recent years have produced no one his
equal at trimming the investing public.
With such material from which to
weave a screenplay, drawing also from recent best sellers, 'Robber
Barons' and 'Book of Daniel Drew,' Dudley Nichols, John Twist and
Joel Sayre have fashioned a broad burlesque. Edward Arnold
takes the principal role of Fisk, and other leaders in the cast
are Frances Farmer, as his actress-protégé, Josie Mansfield;
Cary Grant and Jack Oakie, as his business partners; Donald Meek,
as Daniel Drew, and Clarence Kolb, as the senior Cornelius
Vanderbilt, who is portrayed as the friend of the oppressed and
Fisk's nemesis. The list contains marquee names. No
theatre will be at a loss for advertising ammunition.
Fisk and his stooges, Boyd and
Luke, are introduced as medicine show fakers in the South just
before the start of the Civil War. When hostilities
commence, the trio engage in unlawful smuggling of raw cotton
across the frontier for New England mills. They make a
fortune, which is soon lost and won again in the purchase and sale
of steamships. Thereafter, on the floor of the New York
stock exchange, Fisk devises various schemes which culminate in a
struggle with Vanderbilt for control of the Erie railroad.
Again these financial backgrounds,
in which the incidents are comically revealed, Fisk also is
portrayed as a generous suitor, friend and protector of the
actress, Josie Mansfield, and backer of her musical production at
Wallack's theatre. On the opening night he appears before
the curtain with his young star and is reviled and threatened by
his enemies. Subsequently, when warrants for his arrest are
issued, he escapes to New Jersey behind an armed bodyguard.
Picture ends with his assassination, which clears the way for the
girl friend and Boyd (Cary Grant) to fall into each other's arms.
Arnold plays Fisk in an expansive,
light-hearted sort of way. He is both cruel and
kindly. Jack Oakie is in there strictly for laughs and gets
plenty. A sequence in which he drills the bodyguard is
highly hilarious. Miss Farmer conveys innocence as the love
interest, having very little to do. Donald Meek clowns
Rowland L Lee's direction is
straightforward and well paced. He keeps reasonable check on
the slapstick, which does not get too wild. Production has
size, if not much class.
NEW YORK TIMES Film Review - July 23, 1937
- by Frank S.
- submitted by Barry Martin
Without even bothering to read
"Robber Barons," the "Book of Daniel Drew" or
the yellowed clippings in The Times files, we would not have
hesitated to impugn in advance the accuracy of the Jim Fisk
biography which RKO-Radio presented at the Music Hall yesterday
under the somewhat flattering designation, "The Toast of New
York." Just the circumstance that its screenplay was written
by Dudley Nichols, Joel Sayre and John Twist would be proof enough
that the treatment of facts was to be far from reverent (not that
Fisk deserved reverence) and that there would be a romantic
sugar-coating over all.
Yesterday's exhibit did nothing to
shake our confidence in the fertile imaginations of the three
writers, but that is much less to the point than our conclusion
that the picture is only moderately entertaining. At its
two-thirds mark we realized we had had just about enough of Edward
Arnold's perennial portraits of florid, heavily jowled financial
tycoons. It is not that he does not play them well; quite the
contrary. But his Freebooter Fisk of nineteenth century Wall
street is just a step behind his "Diamond Jim" Brady, a
step to the left of his lumber baron in "Come and Get
It," one to the right of his dustbowl villain in "John
Meade's Woman." Mr. Arnold is getting to be to industry what
George Arliss was to history: a general utility man.
The picture follows the usual
tycoon pattern. There is the rise, the romance, the lust for power
and the decline. Here, with the colorful background of the last
century as its stage and with the spotlight turned amusingly upon
Jim Fisk's unabashed rugged individualism, the film is bound to
have color, comedy and a certain historic interest. Chin whiskers
and helmeted policemen, buggies and horse cars, frills and
flounces cast a spell. There's rowdy humor, too, in the sight of
Uncle Dan'l Drew, capitally played by Donald Meek, and "Corneil"
Vanderbilt brandishing buggy whips at each other in Wall Street;
in the personal, Yankee horse-trading methods of the old robber
barons when they were buying a steamboat line, the Erie Railroad
or trying to corner the gold market.
All things considered, the picture
lets Fisk off rather well - forgives him for causing Black Friday,
neglects any mention of his connection with the Tweed ring,
permits him to atone in a brave last speech. It treats the Josie
Mansfield romance tactfully, too, presenting her in the person of
Frances Farmer (which immediately inclines us to believe only the
best of Josie) and adheres steadfastly to the chivalrous notion
that Miss Mansfield and Fisk were only friends and that she
entrusted her pure love to his partner, here Cary Grant.
Ordinarily, we would be inclined to
dismiss the trite romantic set-up with the flick of a typewriter.
Miss Farmer comes as close to justifying its place in the picture
as any one could. In a word, a familiar, formula Arnold show, with
a vigorous period to lend it interest, a tendency toward opera
bouffe to weaken it. Fair is still the word.
- by Kathy Fox
TOAST OF NEW YORK, is Cary Grant's
28th film and his only film with Frances Farmer. Ms. Farmer accused
Grant of being "an aloof, remote person, intent on being Cary Grant
playing Cary Grant," which only compounded the difficulties of the
production. Six writers were hired by the studio to make the project
work, using two different books, which obviously made making the movie a
chore, especially for Grant, and this movie lost over $500,000.00.
Grant was finishing up making WHEN YOU'RE IN LOVE at Columbia when he
started TOAST OF NEW YORK at RKO. He renegotiated his contracts with
Columbia and RKO after these films were made, with plans to make a movie for
each studio every eighteen months on a rotating schedule. Grant
demanded a flat fee of $75,000 per film, but because he was still an unknown
factor, the amount was reduced to $50,000.00 per film.
TOAST OF NEW YORK is a film biography based
on the life of the 19th Century American entrepreneur Jim Fisk.
He lost and made millions by gambling on stocks and bonds on Wall Street.
The story is convoluted, in my opinion, making it hard to keep track of what
was what and what was the deal going down at the moment. Grant plays
Nick Boyd against Edward Arnold's Jim Fisk. Both are in love with the
same woman, Josie Mansfield, played by Frances Farmer. There is one
beautiful song in the movie, "The First Time I Saw You," sung by
Farmer playing a harp. I was surprised when looking at 70 Years of
Oscar by Robert Osborne, that this song was not nominated for an Academy
Award. Fisk finally makes enough enemies and he is shot at the end,
which leads the way for Boyd and Mansfield to consummate their love for one
another which up until now has been thwarted because of Boyd's and Fisk's
long-time friendship. Remember, this is the movie made right before
THE AWFUL TRUTH, which was Grant's most important introduction and
realization of his comedic talents.
DAILY TRIBUNE Film Review - August 8, 1937
- by Mae Tinée
- submitted by Renee Klish
of New York" is a Movie Packed with Thrills
Again Edward Arnold portrays a
mighty oak - finally stricken to the ground by the lightnings of
his own greed for power. Again Frances Farmer plays the one
woman in his life.
Cary Grant and Jack Oakie are seen
as his loyal sidekicks.
They start out with him in the
years before the civil war when he is a jovial, successful, and
astute peddler, doing business south of the Mason and Dixon
line. War breaks out. He corners cotton.
Years pass and he has acquired
money, railroads, varied utilities, and the reputation for having
"the golden touch." He himself believes he cannot
fail in anything he undertakes.
He meets Josie Mansfield, believes
in her, and makes her a famous and wealthy actress, and the toast
of New York.
Jim Fisk's downfall comes with his
determination to corner gold. And, apparently, he is to
succeed this time, too. But just as the taste of success is
on his tongue; just as the country is on the verge of panic -
Washington acts. Gold is released from the treasury . . .
And the man who played Jove finds himself as penniless as when he
started and aware that Josie and Nick love each other . . . A
bullet fired by a frenzied loser in the gold pandemonium spells
finis to a colorful career.
But Jim has "loved every
minute" of his life and dies, looking forward with gusto to
eternity, and speculating as to whether the streets of heaven are
REALLY paved with gold.
Jim Fisk is a well turned out
characterization, but not so believable as either his Barney
Glasgow in "Come and Get It" or his "Diamond
Jim." However, the big chap "gets" you with
his florid assurance, his intrinsic good heartedness, and
sentimentality and his loyalty to his friends.
Miss Farmer is lovely in a too
colorless role for her. She needs what she had in her first
episodes of "Come and Get It." Cary Grant and Jack
Oakie qualify magnificently, and other players where quite up to
The picture, though too long, has
lots of excitement, some humor, and, in the main, has been
Click here to read Jenny's Crackpot
Reviews at the Cary Grant Shrine
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